Breast milk is renowned for its magical properties. But did you know that even if you don’t breastfeed, your baby can benefit from this liquid gold? Adding breast milk in bath water can help them with all kinds of things, from nappy rash to psoriasis. It’s a technique as old as time (remember the stories of Cleopatra bathing in milk?) and a natural way to soothe ailments.
Keep reading to learn about the healing benefits of breastmilk and how to do milk bath for baby successfully.
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Overall Benefits of Breast Milk
Before I explain how adding breast milk to bath water can help your baby, let’s discuss the overall benefits of it.
The first thing to note is that breast milk is designed for your baby. It contains all of the vitamins and nutrients they need and it changes as they get older. If your baby is ill, you’ll notice that your breast milk changes colour, it takes on a blue tinge, and this is because your breast milk has adapted to your baby’s illness.
Breast milk and breastfeeding can reduce the risk of:
- Adult cardiovascular disease
- Diarrhoea and vomiting
The current guidelines are that babies should be given only milk for the first 6 months of their lives, whether that’s breast milk or formula. But giving your baby breast milk, even if it’s only for a short time, will benefit them well into adulthood.
It’s not just your baby that benefits from breast milk. As a breastfeeding mother, there are also health benefits for you.
These include lowering the risk of:
- Ovarian cancer
- Breast cancer
- Cardiovascular disease
Breastfeeding also helps mother and baby develop a deep and emotional bond. This isn’t to say that formula feeding doesn’t do that but breastfeeding can be hard work. That sense of achievement from both you and your baby does wonders for bonding.
Breast milk isn’t called liquid gold for no reason. As well as fighting internal germs, it can clear up conjunctivitis and help a range of skin issues which is where milk baths are a helpful resource for you to have as a parent.
What is a Breast Milk Bath for Babies?
Before you read any further, rest assured that a milk bath isn’t a bath filled purely with breast milk. Frankly, that would be a waste and it would take a lot of pumping to fill a tub!
All you need to do is run your baby a bath as normal, without any bubble bath, and then add enough breast milk to make the water cloudy. This small amount, usually around 250ml, will provide the magic needed to treat any skin conditions your baby might have.
It’s up to you whether you use freshly expressed milk or thawed milk from your freezer. You can even use “expired” milk as long as it doesn’t smell off. Your baby is unlikely to swallow the bath water so it’s perfectly safe to use it up in a milk bath.
You might have also seen that milk baths are popular in photoshoots. The type of milk used in these shoots vary but it’s usually cows milk as it’s inexpensive. The purpose of a milk bath shoot is to create a neutral and ethereal background so the focus is on the model. The finished photos have a soft finish so they’re perfect for maternity or baby sessions. Milk bath photoshoots have no health benefits.
Benefits of Breast Milk in Bath Water
As mentioned above, breast milk is brilliant in bath water as it has many healing properties. Human milk contains many vitamins and minerals, the list is too extensive to list them all, but they all serve a purpose.
- Lauric acid – moisturiser and antibacterial
- Vaccenic acid – skin nourisher
- Linoleic acid – reduces inflammation
- Palmitic acid – super moisturiser
As you can see, the examples given above almost sound like they could be listed on the ingredients list of an expensive skincare product. And these are the basis for the key benefits of breast milk bath for baby.
How do these help with skin issues? Let me explain some of the conditions a breast milk bath for babies could help with.
In 2015, a study was conducted which showed that breast milk was as effective as a 1% hydrocortisone when treating eczema.
Psoriasis & Cradle Cap
Nappy Rash & Insect Bites
Anti-inflammatory antibodies in breast milk are perfect for treating nappy rash or insect bites, especially if there’s irritation around the area of the bite.
A lot of newborns develop baby acne as their skin becomes used to the world outside of their mother’s womb. This is usually caused by their skin becoming dried out so moisture from breast milk should help clear it up pretty quickly.
Cuts & Scrapes
There’s another antibody found within breast milk which goes by the name Immunoglobulin A (IgA). This prevents any germs from getting into the cut or scrape and speeds up the healing process.
It’s been said so many times now but the moisturising properties within breast milk can help with so many issues, including minor wounds such as milk burns.
Hydrating Baby Skin
Similar to baby acne, a baby’s skin can become dry very quickly. Bathe them in a milk bath or apply it using a cotton pad to any dry patches and they should disappear.
How to Do a Milk Bath for Baby
Now that you know why a milk bath is beneficial for your baby, let’s go over how to make a successful breast milk bath for your baby.
- Fill up your bath with warm water as usual. If you’re using the family bath, around two inches or five centimetres is enough. Baby baths usually have a maximum fill line but general rule of thumb is that their bottom and genitals are underwater so they’re cleaned thoroughly.
- Add in between 150ml-300ml of freshly expressed or thawed milk to the water. With relation to the family bath, I’d say that 250ml would be enough and 150ml in a baby bath. It should be enough to turn the water cloudy.
- Place your baby in the water and let them soak for around 15 minutes, splashing the water over the parts of their body that aren’t in the water.
- Take your baby out and dry them with a towel. Don’t forget to moisturise them to lock in the benefits of the milk bath.
- The bath doesn’t need any extra cleaning if you’ve used breast milk as it’s sterile and it won’t cause any smell or residue. However, there’s no harm in wiping the bath down after a milk bath for your own peace of mind.
Giving your baby a milk bath once or twice a week is enough for them to reap the skin softening benefits. Regular water baths in between are fine, as long as they’re followed up with moisturiser.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can You Use Expired Milk for a Milk Bath?
Yes, using expired milk is fine. Expired breast milk refers to milk that is past the point that you’d feed it to a baby but as long as it smells fine, it’s safe for your baby to bathe in.
How to do a Milk Bath for a Baby Photoshoot?
Milk baths used in professional photoshoots usually use cows milk but if you’re attempting to do one yourself, there’s no reason why you can’t use a breast milk bath. Always make sure there’s another adult nearby to ensure your baby is safe in the bath, add some flowers and the pictures will be beautiful.
I actually attempted a milk bath photoshoot with my daughter when she was around 4 months old. I used a mixture of breast milk and oat milk, laid my baby in the bath and placed some sunflowers around her head. I have them hanging on my wall. It was a lot easier than it looks!
Can You Do a Milk Bath for Baby Without Breast Milk?
Yes. I wouldn’t recommend using cow’s milk because we all know how gross dried cow milk can smell. I’d recommend oat milk as oats are used in a variety of skincare products and an oat bath is a recommended treatment for chickenpox.
You could also try an Epsom salt bath for babies, which has a number of different but amazing benefits as well.
How Much Breast Milk is Needed for a Milk Bath for Babies?
Around 250ml is plenty but it depends on how much water you’re using. Add enough so that the water goes cloudy.
A milk bath for babies is a great way to soothe their skin and create an enjoyable bonding experience between parent and child. With the help of breast milk in bath water, you can provide your baby with hydration, protection against minor wounds like burns, and relief from dryness. Give it go today – your little one will thank you later!